"Theater is so gay!"
About Face Theatre has used this expression in the past as a badge of pride rather than a homophobic putdown. And the expression is also very true, since the theater community has historically been accepting of LGTB creative types.
But when it comes to compiling a list of Chicago-area LGBT shows for the fall season, where do you begin or end? Do you only include shows with LGBT characters like in Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi? Or does the list extend to works by queer authors or theater artists that might not feature any overt LGBT characters, like in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth? And what about shows that aren't specifically queer, but have big gay followings like the musical Dreamgirls?
Taking these questions into account, here's a rundown of shows by category that hopefully should interest ardent theatergoers who are also on the lookout for material with LGBT ties.
World and local premieres
Kinky Boots, Bank of America Theatre, Oct. 2-Nov. 4. Perhaps the highest-profile show of the fall season is this pre-Broadway world premiere featuring an original score by pop icon Cyndi Lauper and a book by award-winning out performer/playwright Harvey Fierstein. Kinky Boots is based on the British film of the same name that follows a struggling shoe manufacturer who takes the advice of a drag queen to start producing plus-size fetish footwear as a way to save the business from going under. 800-775-2000 or www.broadwayinchicago.com
CLEAR: A New Musical Experience, About Face Theatre at Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion, Oct. 11-13. This concert musical featuring a score by Paul Oakley Stovall, with additional music by Stew (Passing Strange), jumps about the globe to find out that change is inevitable and can be revolutionary. 773-784-8565, ext. 11, or www.aboutfacetheatre.com
At the Flash, Pride Films and Plays at Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theater, Nov. 16-Dec. 16. This comic drama by Sean Chandler and David Leeper condenses LGBT history through the stories of five characters: a closeted man in the 1960s, a Black drag queen in the 1970s, a club kid in the 1980s, a lesbian activist in the 1990s and an entrepreneur in the 2000s. www.pridefilmsandplays.com
2012 Gay Screenplay Weekend, Pride Films and Plays at Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theater, Oct. 19-21. Pride Films and Plays artistic director David Zak oversees this weekend of staged readings of new screenplays all with overtly LGBT characters and plot angles. www.pridefilmsandplays.com
These shows have already played Chicago, but they're always new to somebody in the audience.
Sweet Bird of Youth, Goodman Theatre, now to Oct. 25. Out director David Cromer's plans to direct this Tennessee Williams drama on Broadway fell through, but thanks to the Goodman Theatre he gets a chance to stage it now in Chicago. Academy Award-nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful) and Finn Wittrock both star in this disturbing tale of a faded Hollywood starlet who has been dragged by a gigolo back to his dangerous Southern hometown. 312-443-3800 or www.goodmantheatre.org
My First Time, Broken Nose Theatre at Greenhouse Theater Center, now to Oct. 26. This hit off-Broadway show is back, detailing stories about people's first-time sexual experiences and also getting the audience into the action by incorporating a pre-show poll. 773-404-7336 or www.greenhousetheater.org
Corpus Christi, Center on Halsted, Sept. 29-30. This special event, co-sponsored by Michael Leppen, features a performance by 108 Productions of the 1998 Terrence McNally play that retells the story of Jesus if he was living as a gay man in 1950s Texas. It's also paired with a film documentary called Corpus Christi-Playing With Redemption, which follows the theater troupe, McNally and audiences around the world by capturing voices of support and protest over "that gay Jesus play." Tickets are available for the play and film separately or together. www.corpuschristi-themovie.com
Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, Oak Park Festival Theatre at Madison Street Studio Theatre, Oct. 4-Nov. 11. Irish playwright Frank McGuiness explores how three menan American, an Irishman and an Englishmancope with being held hostage in this acclaimed play from the 1990s. 708-445-4440 or www.oakparkfestival.com
Doubt, American Theater Company, Sept. 27-Nov. 4. John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama focuses on a stern Catholic school principal who takes matters into her own hands when she suspects the new and popular parish priest has been having improper contact with a male student. Doubt plays alongside John Peilmeier's drama Agnes of God under American Theater Company's billing of The Catholic Repertory. 773-409-4125 or www.atcweb.org
Hot 'n' Throbbing, Interrobang Theatre Project at Raven Theatre, Sept. 22-Oct. 21. Pulitzer Prize-winning lesbian playwright Paula Vogel gets a revival of her adults-only comic drama dealing with domestic abuse. The play follows a suburban mother who writes feminist erotica but is distracted by her nicotine cravings, her hormonal teenage children and the arrival of her estranged and abusive husband. www.interrobangtheatreproject.org
Avenue Q, NightBlue Performing Arts Company at Stage 773, now to Oct. 14. The Tony Award-winning 2003 Broadway musical that lovingly spoofs Sesame Street returns in a locally produced production. So meet the people and puppets (like Rod, the closeted gay Republican) on this special rundown New York street and don't be surprised if the catchy tunes make you want to sing along. 773-327-5252 or www.nightbluetheater.com
Burn This, Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit, Oct. 18-Nov. 18. The death of a successful gay dancer throws the lives of two friends into disarray in this classic 1980s drama by the late gay playwright Lanford Wilson. 773-975-8150 or www.sgtheatre.org
Sometimes you've got to be comically tragic for comic's sake. So catch these shows that parody pop culture with a decidedly queer eye.
Annee Pocalypse!, Hubris Productions at Mary's Attic, now to Nov. 10. What do you get when you blend a beloved Broadway musical with zombies in a post-apocalyptic world? Why, it's a revival of this genre-blending musical spoof that focuses on "Little Whorin' Annee" trying to survive in a frightening, non-politically correct world. www.hubrisproductions.com
Xanadu, Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace, now to Oct. 28. Out playwright Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, Lysistrata Jones) junked the weird screenplay from this critically drubbed 1980 film musical and turned it into a sparkly and lovingly spoofed Broadway success. So see what happens when an ancient Greek muse helps a hunky California guy realize his dream of building a roller disco. 630-530-0111 or www.drurylaneoakbrook.com
Scarrie the Musical, Hell in a Handbag Productions at Mary's Attic, Sept. 28-Oct. 31. This musical spoof of the iconic 1970s Stephen King novel and movie Carrie gets another bloody revival. And this revengeful telekinetic teenager is specially timed to the month of Halloween celebrations. 800-838-3006 or www.handbagproductions.org
Sexy Baby, Hell in a Handbag Productions at Theater Wit, now through Oct. 27. This summer musical spoof of child beauty pageants featuring loads of drag queens has extended and moved to a new location. Also, don't miss the inclusion of Honey "Boo Boo" West to the cast. 773-975-8150 or www.handbagproductions.org
Steamwerkz the Musical, Annoyance Theater, now extended to Dec. 28. Who knew that Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland could be the template for a musical about a notorious Chicago gay bathhouse? Obviously the cast and crew of this hit summer musical did, since practically all performances have been selling out. 773-561-4665 or www.annoyanceproductions.com
Whether opera or Motown is your thing, be sure not to miss these shows featuring plenty of soulful divas scaling the vocal heights.
Dreamgirls, Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, now to Oct. 28. This hit 1981 musical about the backstage drama surrounding an African-American girl group in the 1960s and 1970s is back in a critically acclaimed production directed and choreographed by Marc Robin. If you only know the show from the 2006 movie, then you haven't really experienced Dreamgirls in its original form. 847-634-0200 or www.marriotttheatre.com
One Name Only (Featuring the Music of Aretha, Gladys, Patti, Tina and Chaka), Black Ensemble Theater, Previews begin Sept. 28. The music celebrating one-name Ladies of Soul is given a reality TV show twist in Rueben Echoles' new show where the audience can vote for their favorites with five different outcomes. 773-769-4451 or www.blackensembletheater.org
Homotown 3 Last Dance: A Tribute to Etta, Whitney and Donna, About Face Theatre at Sidetrack, 6 p.m. doors open, 7 p.m. show Sept. 24. This benefit to aid About Face Youth Theatre features performers paying homage to divas we've lost this year like Etta James, Whitney Houston and Donna Summer. www.aboutfacetheatre.com
Simply Sensational 2 with Kim Kuzma and With A Twist, Michael A. Leppen and Pride Films and Plays at Stage 773, Oct. 9. Singer Kim Kuzma and the vocal trio With A Twist are joined by the ensembles of shows like Bailiwick Chicago's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Theo Ubique's Smokey Joe's Café and more for this special benefit. www.pridefilmsandplays.com
Elektra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Oct. 6-30. American soprano Christine Goerke makes her Lyric debut in the title role of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's towering interpretation of a Greek tragedy. This new production is helmed by gay Scottish director Sir David McVicar and also features lesbian mezzo-soprano Jill Grove in the role of Clytemnestra. 312-332-2244 ext. 5600 or www.lyricopera.org
The Magic Flute, Chicago Opera Theater at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, now to Sept. 23. Most everyone knows the stratospheric arias of The Queen of the Night, but they probably haven't heard them sung in English as in Chicago Opera Theater's new production. There are only three more chances to catch this masterpiece by Mozart. 312-704-8414 or www.chicagooperatheater.org
A nod to LGBT allies
Some people have been adding an "A" to the end of the LGBT acronym so as not to exclude our straight allies. So don't discount these shows, which are about influential late writers who were strong supporters of the LGBT community.
A Class Act, Porchlight Music Theatre at Theater Wit, now to Oct. 7. The neurotic New York songwriter Edward Kleban may have been straight, but he collaborated on the influential Broadway smash hit A Chorus Line which significantly featured gay characters. Find out about the little-known songs of Kleban via this bio-musical co-created by Lonny Price and Linda Klineor, better yet, attend the one-day-only cabaret called An Unordinary Sunday Sept. 23 featuring Price as the host and the music of Stephen Sondheim. 773-975-8150 or www.porchlightmusictheatre.org
The Lady With All the Answers, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble at College of DuPage's Building-K Theater, Glen Ellyn, now to Sept. 23. The late Ann Landers was an early supporter of gay people, and David Rambo's one-woman play about the influential syndicated newspaper advice columnist is a reminder of that fact. 630-942-4000 or www.home.cod.edu/atthemac